Friday, September 22, 2017

The Importance of Racial Diversity in the Church

Walter Strickland speaking at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

On Wednesday, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary held an event to celebrate the release of Plain Theology for Plain People. Speaking at the event, Walter Strickland III said, “My challenge to Evangelicals is to seek out theological dialogue partners of different races and ethnic backgrounds.” Diversity in the church is a critically important concern today, just as it was 100 years ago, and will be 100 years from now. The work of Charles Octavius Boothe provides us with an opportunity to engage with a historically muted perspective. Plain Theology for Plain People may be over 100 years old, but it is no less important today than when it was first published.

In his introduction, Strickland addresses the challenge stated above in much greater depth. He writes, “Unity in Christ demands an openness to collaboration and to mutual sharpening in the theological task.” Understanding the different cultural, historical, and socio-economic contexts in which Christians live and God acts is critical to developing a full understanding of God and his Kingdom. Too often voices from these diverse contexts are suppressed or excluded in favor of voices from the dominant culture. But God is not limited by context. He is faithful in every circumstance, and by reading Plain Theology for Plain People, we receive a glimpse into late-nineteenth-century black life, rooted in Scripture and divine wisdom.

“A classic volume”

Contemporary scholars and pastors recognize the importance of Plain Theology for Plain People at this moment in time. Each of these endorsements emphasize the distinct perspective of Charles Octavius Boothe and his efforts to make the Bible accessible to his congregation.

“We are in Walter Strickland’s debt for publishing a new edition of Charles Boothe’s Plain Theology for Plain People, an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man. This is everyday theology from the margins, from below, from the perspective of the dispossessed. It is no dry textbook, but theology written by an African-American pastor, born into slavery, who sought to instruct ordinary people in the Christian faith. A classic volume, short, readable, informative, by an inspiring Christian leader.”

—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College.

“By reprinting . . . a book written for the average sharecropper, Walter R. Strickland has provided Christians with a helpful biblical and theological resource. Along with Strickland’s insightful introduction, this book’s reprinting provides another example (among many) of the contributions of black Christians to Christianity, their contributions to evangelical biblical and theological discourse, and their contributions to the intellectual environment of evangelical Christianity. Readers of Boothe’s work will especially appreciate his intentional efforts to make the bible and theology accessible to his original audience.”

—Jarvis J. Williams, Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Any given Sunday in some black churches, a member of the congregation may encourage the pastor by saying, “Make it plain, preacher!” In Plain Theology for Plain People, Charles Octavius Boothe makes plain a systematic theology that is both faithful to biblical orthodoxy and responsive to the particular interests of black Christians. I am thankful to God that Walter Strickland discovered this literary jewel and now shares it with the contemporary people of the Lord. Too often, the black church is mischaracterized as being emotionally rich and intellectually shallow. Plain Theology shows this to be a harmful stereotype. All disciples of Jesus Christ interested in how to, in the words of Robert Smith Jr., make doctrine dance should read this book and apply it to the preaching of the plain and pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

—CJ Rhodes, Pastor of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Plain Theology for Plain People is available now in all formats. Get this vital contribution to our Christian heritage today!

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